by Abayomi Azikiwe
The U.S. anti-war movement must adjust its focus to the realities of U.S. imperialist war policies. That means paying more attention to Africa, which “is a focal point for military intervention by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO.”
The War on Africa: U.S. Imperialism and the World Economic Crisis
by Abayomi Azikiwe
Mr. Azikiwe delivered these remarks at the Left Forum during a panel entitled "The War on Africa." The panel was organized by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and chaired by Joe Lombardo. Other panelists were Ana Edwards of the Virginia Defenders in Richmond, Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report and Patrick Bond, a professor at KwaZulu-Natal University in South Africa. This article previously appeared in Pambazuka News.
“The presence of U.S. military and intelligence forces in Africa is designed to bolster the strategic mineral and territorial interests of Wall Street.”
For more than two decades the United States and other Western European imperialist states have been escalating their military intervention in Africa and other geo-political regions of the world. This has been taking place during the so-called Post-Cold War era with the collapse of the Eastern European socialist states and the Soviet Union during the late 1980s through 1991.
Africa was viewed during the period after the Second World War II as an ideological and political battleground between the emerging national liberation and socialist movements on the one hand and the imperialist states led by the U.S. on the other. One major outcome of World War II was the consolidation of economic and political hegemony of Washington and Wall Street.
During the Second World War the U.S. established military outposts in Algeria, Libya and Liberia. After 1945, the struggle for national independence in Africa, the Middle East and Asia would accelerate.
In Latin America, even though an independence struggle was waged in the 19th century, the phenomena of neo-colonialism became the dominant character of relations between the states in South America and the U.S. In the Caribbean, the struggle for genuine independence was waged from the 19th through the 20th century in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and other territories.
“After 1945, the struggle for national independence in Africa, the Middle East and Asia would accelerate.”
In the U.S. itself with the advent of Cold War ideology and political repression under McCarthyism, perspectives and political organizing around Africa became a highly contentious arena of struggle. The Council on African Affairs (CAA) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) during the early 1950s came under fierce attack by the U.S. government and were driven out of existence.
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois, both leading figures in the CAA and the CRC, were persecuted in the early 1950s for their interventions in the movements for world peace and solidarity with African liberation. The Du Bois’ wrote in December 1958 for the All-African People’s Conference held in Accra, Ghana that the future of Africa lies in socialism.
The Du Bois’ said that “Africa, ancient Africa, has been called by the world and has lifted up her hands! Africa has no choice between private capitalism and socialism. The whole world, including capitalist countries, is moving toward socialism, inevitably, inexorably. You can choose between blocs and military alliances, you can choose between political unions; you cannot choose between socialism and private capitalism because private capitalism is doomed!” (The World and Africa, p. 307)
Implications of U.S. Dominance in the World Imperialist System
Later during the 1960s when the various national liberation movements and independent African states embarked upon the armed struggle as a necessity to fight the U.S. and NATO backed colonial and settler-colonial states in Africa, Pan-Africanist and socialist strategist Kwame Nkrumah identified U.S. imperialism as the major force in the movement for genuine territorial sovereignty on the continent. The U.S., although paying lip service to supporting the anti-colonial movements, sought to stifle and manipulate the national liberation movements for the benefit of Wall Street and the Pentagon.
Nkrumah wrote that “The modifications introduced by imperialism in its strategy were expressed through the disappearance of the numerous old-fashioned ‘colonies’ owing exclusive allegiance to a single metropolitan country through the replacement of ‘national’ imperialism by a ‘collective’ imperialism in which the USA occupies a leading position.” (Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, p. 5, 1969)
Nkrumah continued noting that “The US-European post-war alliance not only enabled the USA to benefit from the advantages of the European market, which had hitherto been largely closed to its penetration; but also opened up new horizons in Asia, Africa and Latin America where the USA had already superseded European supremacy and established neo-colonialist domination. The militarization of the US economy, based on the political pretext of the threatening rise of the USSR and later of the People’s Republic of China as socialist powers, enabled the USA to postpone its internal crises, the first during the ‘hot’ war (1939-1945) and then during the ‘cold’ war (since 1945).” (ibid., p. 6)
“The U.S. sought to stifle and manipulate the national liberation movements for the benefit of Wall Street and the Pentagon.”
The postponement of these internal crises has apparently run its course. Imperialist war no long delays the impact of the inherent failures of capitalism related to its incapacity to provide housing, jobs, medical services, education and municipal services to the majority of its people. Nonetheless, in its destructive character, imperialism continues on the path of endless war and pursuit of ever-rising rates of profit.
Since the advent of the first Gulf war in 1990-91, going through the occupation of Somalia during 1992-94, through to the failure of U.S. policy in Egypt to the second occupation of Somalia through proxy between 2006 to the present period, where in the aftermath of the war on Libya and the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan, the capitalist system in the West continues to decline economically. No matter how many Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field stations are constructed or drone attacks carried out throughout Africa, Washington has not been able to address the rising rates of poverty, joblessness and austerity throughout the capitalist states in Western Europe and North America.
The U.S. ruling class through its quest for mineral resources and strategic dominance has focused a tremendous amount of attention on Africa and the so-called Middle East. The founding of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008 under Bush has enhanced its operations under Obama.
The first full-scale operation of AFRICOM was the war of regime-change carried out against Libya in 2011 in cooperation with other European imperialist states and their allies. It is no accident that Libya has the largest known oil reserves in Africa and had under the Jamahiriya, the highest living standards on the African continent.
In Somalia, the CIA and AFRICOM have been involved in propping up the Ethiopian occupation and the latter Transitional Federal Government regime since 2006. The African Union Mission to Somalia, AMISOM, is largely a U.S.-controlled military operation which is financed by Washington and provided with political, intelligence and diplomatic cover. Somalia is the source of oil and other strategic interests for imperialism and both the U.S. and NATO have large-scale naval vessels off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation in the Gulf of Aden.
The intervention into Somalia of the Kenyan Defense Forces in 2011 had been planned by the Pentagon for at least two years. Despite efforts by Washington and its allies, the situation in Somalia is by no means stable. A French Special Forces commando unit’s attempt to free intelligence officials from Paris being held in Somalia proved to be a disaster as Al-Shabaab wiped out the entire crew and eventually executed the leading commander of the failed raid.
“The African Union Mission to Somalia, AMISOM, is largely a U.S.-controlled military operation which is financed by Washington and provided with political, intelligence and diplomatic cover.”
In Mali and Niger, the U.S. is backing up French military intervention. The Pentagon had trained the Malian army prior to the March 2012 coup and is largely responsibility for the incapacity of the national military to address the Tuareg rebellion in the north.
Niger is now another location for a U.S. drone station and at least 100 Special Forces are operating inside the country. During December 2012, the Obama administration announced that 3,500 Pentagon troops would be deployed in at least 35 African states over the course of the year. Nonetheless, France and the U.S. have been unable to halt armed actions against foreign forces in Mali and Niger. In Mali, the resistance to French occupation is widening with mass demonstrations recently in Gao and the open criticism of the Hollande doctrine of military intervention throughout the region of West Africa.
The presence of U.S. military and intelligence forces in Africa is designed to bolster the strategic mineral and territorial interests of Wall Street. Africa is now supplying greater amounts of oil, natural gas and other essential minerals to economic interests of the ruling class.
Africa and Regional Blocs of the Global South
With the growing role of the People’s Republic of China on the continent, Washington and Wall Street are concerned that they will lose their post-World War II advantage in Africa. Hence due to the declining economic influence of the U.S., the capitalist are relying more on aggressive military and intelligence operations to undermine Africa’s long term interests which are more in line with other continental states as well as other geo-political regions of the world including Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
The advent of regional blocs such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has served to provide the African Union member-states with both economic and political alliances that are outside U.S. and European Union influence. In regard to China, the socialist state has provided direct economic trade and development assistance which is far superior to the traditional relations established by the imperialist countries which enslaved Africans and colonized the continent for centuries. FOCAC has held five summits since 2000 and this is paralleled by the fact that now China is Africa’s largest international trading partner.
China supported both Zimbabwe and Sudan when the U.S. and Britain sought to impose even harsher sanctions on these states through the United Nations Security Council. Zimbabwe maintains a “Look East” policy which has been significant in the survival of the Southern African state in the aftermath of its land redistribution program beginning in 2000 that prompted the West to enact draconian sanctions and regime-change plots against the ZANU-PF government.
“Washington and Wall Street are concerned that they will lose their post-World War II advantage in Africa.”
The U.S. and Britain have sought the overthrow of the National People Congress (NPC) government in Sudan through the partition of the country in 2011 and the ongoing conflict in Darfur. Sudan prior to the partition was the largest geographic nation-state in Africa and is an emerging oil-producing country with close links to China and Iran. Israel and the U.S. have bombed Sudan on numerous occasions because Khartoum does not support Washington’s foreign policy objectives in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.
Uprising in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria during 2010-2011 saw the U.S. attempting to manipulate these developments to maintain Cairo, Tunis and Rabat in their own sphere of geo-political influence. The government in Algeria was able to resist these efforts while Libya faced an all-out onslaught that resulted in the destruction of the national infrastructure of this North African state, the theft of its foreign reserves and the abolition of its leading role on the African continent.
Other economic and political alliances have surfaced in the last few years which have impacted U.S. militarist policies toward Africa. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has maintained its support of Zimbabwe which has been critical in its survival and economic recovery.
The Africa-South America Summit has held three gatherings, the latest of which was in March, in order to enhance cooperation and to form a bloc against U.S. efforts to undermine anti-imperialist governments in Latin America and developing relations between Africa and non-Western regional entities. Iran has also strengthened its relations with Africa and Latin America causing serious concerns on the part of the U.S.
The joining by the Republic of South Africa of the Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRICS) grouping has resulted in new initiatives being discussed including the creation of a development bank as well as independent foreign policy positions on Syria and Iran that are at variance with U.S. imperialism. The failure of U.S. foreign policy toward Syria has been greatly determined by the role played on the part of Russia, Iran, China and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon along with other regional forces of the Global South who do not want another war of regime-change in the Middle East. Such wars could very well be carried out with greater determination in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa and Somalia which would be against the interests of the peoples of Africa and working and oppressed peoples throughout the world.
The Principal and Principled Role of the Anti-War Movement in the United States
Our role in the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) has been centered on developing and maintaining a clear anti-imperialist position that views U.S. imperialism as the principal threat to world peace. Africa is a focal point for military intervention by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO and the anti-war and peace movements in the U.S. must be concerned about these trends and take decisive actions to thwart them.
UNAC at its founding conference in Albany in August 2010 unanimously passed a resolution opposing U.S. military intervention of any kind in Africa. We opposed the war of regime-change in Libya and have gone on record against the French invasion and occupation of Mali.
This coalition is by far the largest and most representative peace alliance in the U.S. We must build upon our successes in order to widen the organizations and grouping that we encompass so that we can further influence the anti-war struggle throughout North America and Western Europe.
Through our efforts in solidarity with the peoples of Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Korea, the South Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean we enhance the capacity of the 99 percent to confront the owners of capital who are the principal purveyors of death and destruction throughout the world. It will be through this unity of purpose and action that war and exploitation can be eliminated throughout the planet.
Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire.